« AnteriorContinuar »
them, and reveals his redeeming love and mercy in Jesus Christ, to make them sensible that they also deserve it. Thus Matthew xviii. 24, 25, 26. “And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.” Very commonly when men are first made sensible of their danger, their mouths are open against God and his dealings; that is, their hearts are full of murmurings. But it is God's manner before he comforts and reveals his mercy and love to them, to stop their mouths, and make their acknowledge their guilt, or their desert of the threatened punishment. Romans iii. 19, 20. “ Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” God would convince men of their guilt before he reveals a pardon to them. Now a man cannot be said to be thoroughly sensible of his guilt, till he is sensible that he deserves hell. A man must be sensible that he is guilty of death, or guilty of damnation, to use the scriptural mode of expression, before God will reveal to him his freedom from damnation. A sense of guilt consists in two things in a sense of sin, and in a sense of the relation which sin has to punishment. Now the relation which sin has to punishment, is also twofold: first, the connexion which it has with punishment by which it exposes to it, and brings it ; and secondly, its desert of punishment. When a man is truly convinced of his desert of the punishment to which his sin exposes him, then he may be said to be thoroughly sensible of his guilt. Then he is become guilty, in the sense of our text, and in the sense of Romans iii. 20. Inquiry. How is it that a sinner
How is it that a sinner is made sensible of his desert of God's wrath? A natural man may have a sense of tbis, though not the same sense which a person may have after conversion ; because a natural man cannot have a true sight of sin, and of the evil of it. A man cannot truly know the evil of sin against God, except it' be by a discovery of his glory and excellence; and then he will be sensible how great an evil it is to sin against him.
Yet it cannot be denied that natural men are capable of a conviction of their desert of hell, or that their consciences may be convinced of it without a sight of God's
glory. The consciences of wicked men will also be convinced of the justice of their sentence and of their punishment at the day of judgment; and doubtless will echo to the sentence of the Judge, and condemn them to the same punishment. Here, therefore, we would inquire how it is that a natural man may be made sensible of this. 1. We shall show what is the principle assisted. 2. How it is assisted. And 3. What are the chief external means which are used in order to this.
1. What principle in man is assisted in convincing him of his desert of eternal punishment ? No new principle is insused. Natural men have only natural principles; and therefore all that is done by the spirit of God before regeneration is by assisting natural principles. To observe, therefore, in answer to this inquiry,
That the principle, which is assisted in making natural men sensible of their desert of wrath, is natural conscience. Though man has lost a principle of love to God, and all spiritual principles by the fall, yet natural conscience remains. Now there are two things, which are the proper work of natural conscience. One is to give man a sense of right and wrong. A natural man has no sense of the beauty and amiableness of virtue, or of the turpitude and odiousness of vice. But yet every man has that naturally within, which testifies to him that some things are right, and others wrong. Thus if a man steals, or commits murder, there is something within, which tells him that he has done wrong; he knows that he has not done right. Romans ij. 14, 15.. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves ; which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing one another.” And the other work of natural con
. science is to suggest the relation there is between right and wrong, and a retribution. Man has that in him, which suggests to him, when he has done ill, a relation between that ill and punishment. If a man has done that which his conscience tells him is wrong, is unjust, his conscience tells him that he deserves to be punished for it. Thus natural conscience has a twofold power; a teaching, or accusing, and a condemning power. The Spirit of God, therefore, assists natural conscience the more thoroughly to do this, its work, and so convinces a man of sin. Conscience naturally suggests, when he has done a known evil, that he deserves punishment; and being assisted to its work thoroughly, a man is convinced that he deserves eternal punishment. Though natural conscience does remain in inan since the fall, yet it greatly
peeds assistance in order to its work. It is greatly bivdered in doing its work by sin. Every thing in man, which is part of bis perfection, is hindered and impaired by sin. A faculty of reason remains since the fall, but it is greatly impaired and blinded. So natural conscience remains, but sin, in a great degree, stupifies it, and hinders it in its work. Now when God convinces a sinner, he assists bis conscience against the stupefaction of sin, and helps it to do its work more freely and fully. The spirit of God works immediately upon men's consciences. In conviction their consciences are awakened. They are convinced in their consciences.
Their consciences smite them and condemn them. 2. It may be inquired, How God assists natural conscience so as to convince the sinner of his desert of hell? I answer,
1. In general, it is by light. The whole work of God is.carried on in the heart of man from his first convictions to his conversion by light. It is by discoveries, which are made to his soul. But by what light is it, that a șioner is made sensible, that he deserves God's wrath? It is some discovery, that he has, which makes him sensible of the heinousness of disobeying and casting contempt upon God. The light, which gives evangelical humiliation, and which makes man sensible of the hateful and odious nature of sin, is a discovery of God's glory and excellence and grace. But what is it, which a natural man sees of God, which makes him sensible that sin against God deserves his wrath; for he sees nothing of the excellence and loveliness of God's glory and grace? I answer,
2. Particularly, it seems to be a discovery of God's awsul and terrible greatness. Natural men cannot see any thing of God's loveliness, bis amiable and glorious grace, or any tbing, which should attract their love; but they may see his terrible greatness to excite their terror. Wicked men in another world, though they do not see his loveliness and grace, yet they see his awful greatness, and that makes them sensible of the heinousness of sin. The damned in hell are sensible of the heinousness of their sin. Their consciences declare it to them. And they are made sensible of it by what they see of the awful greatness of that Being, against whom they have sinned. And wicked men in this world are capable of being made sensible of the heinousness of sin the same way. If a wicked soul is capable while wicked of receiving the discoveries of God's terrible majesty in another world, it is capable of it in this. God may, if he pleases, make wicked men sensible of the same thing here. And in this way natural men may be so made sensible of the heinousness of sin, as to be convinced that they deserve hell; as is evident in that it is by this very means, that wicked men will be made sensible of the justice of their punishment in another world, and at the day of judgment.
For then the wicked will see so much of the awful greatness of God, the Judge, that it will convince their consciences, what a heinous thing it was in them to disobey and contemn such a God, and will convince them that they therefore deserve his wrath. Which shows that wicked men are capable of being convinced in the same way. A wicked man, while a wicked man, is capable of hearing the thunders, and seeing the devouring fire of Mount Sinai; that is, he is capable of being made sensible of that terrible majesty and greatness of God, which was discovered at the giving of the law. But this brings me to the
3. Thing, viz. the principal outward means, which the spirit of God makes use of in this work of convincing men of their desert of hell. And that is the Law. The spirit of God in all his work upon the souls of men works by his word. And in this whole work of conviction of sin, that part of the word is principally made use of; viz. the Law. It is the law, which makes men sensible of their sin; and it is the law attended with its awful threatenings and curses, which gives a sense of the awful greatness, the authority, the power, the jealousy of God. Wicked men are made sensible of the tremendous greatness of God, as it were, in the same manner, in which the children of Israel were ; viz. by the thuaders, and earthquake, and devouring fire, and sound of the trumpet, and terrible voice at Mount Sinai. All the people, who were in the camp trembled, and they said, Let not God speak with us, lest we die. So that it is the law, which God makes use of in assisting the natural conscience to do its work. Galatians iii. 24. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.” It is the law which God makes use of, to make men sensible of their guilt, and to stop their mouths. Romans ili. 19. “Now we koow that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” It is the law, which kills men as to trusting in their own righteousness. “For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sio revived, and I died.” Galatians ii. 19. “For I through the law, am dead
” to the law.” Conviction, which precedes conversion, is of sin
. and misery. But men are not thoroughly sensible of their sin or guilt, till they are sensible they deserve hell; nor thoroughly sensible of their misery, till they are sensible they are helpless.
4. It is God's manner to make men sensible of their helplessness in their own strength. It is usual with sinners when they are first made sensible of their danger of hell, to attempt by their own strength, to save themselves. They in some measure see their danger, and endeavour to work out their own deliverance. They are striving to make themselves better. They strive to convert themselves, 10 work their hearts into a believing frame, and to ex
ercise a saving trust in Christ. Having heard that if ever they believe, they must put their trust in Christ, and in him alone, for salvation, they think they will trust in Christ and cast their souls upon him. And this they endeavour to do in their own strength. This is very common with persons upon a sick bed, when they are afraid that they shall die and go to hell, and are told that they must put their trust in Christ alone for salvation. They attempt to do it in their own strength. So sinners will be striving without a sense of their insufficiency in themselves to bring their own hearts to love God, and to choose him for their portion, and to repent of their sins. Or they strive to make themselves better, that so God may be more willing to convert them and give them his grace, and enable them to believe in Christ, and love God, and repent of their sins. But before God appears to them as their help and deliverance, it is his manner to make them sensible, that they are utterly helpless in themselves. They are brought to despair of help from themselves. There is a death to all their hopes from themselves. Romans vii. 9. Before God opens the prison doors, he makes them see that they are shut up, that they are close
, prisoners, and that there is no way, in which they can escape. Christ tells us in Isaiah Ixi. 1, that he was sent to bind up the broken-hearted, and to proclaim liberty to captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. Christ was sent to open the prison to them that are not only really, but sensibly bound. Galatians iii. 23. “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith, that should afterwards be revealed.” God makes men sensible that they are in a forlorn condition ; that they are wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked, before he comforts them. Christ tells us in John ix. 39. “For judgment I am come into the world, that they, which see not, might see; and that they, which see, might be made blind ;” meaning partly at least, by those that see, those who think they see; having respect to the Pharisees, who were proud of their knowledge; and by the blind, those, who are sensibly blind. This is emblematically represented by Saul's blindness before his first comfort. He was blind till Ananias came to him to open his eyes; probably designed to intimate to us that before God opens the eyes of men in conversion, he makes them sensibly blind. God brings men to
. this despair in their own strength in these ways.
1. God oftentimes makes use of men's own experience to convince them that they are helpless in themselves. When they first set out in seeking salvation, it may be they thought it an easy thing to be converted. They thought they should presently bring themselves to repent of their sins, and believe in Christ, and accordingly they strove in their own strength with hopes of success.
But they were disappointed. And so God suffers them to go on striving to